A HAPPY MARRIAGE

Posted by on Aug 6, 2012 in short story | 0 comments

 

The ringing phone interrupted their good-byes.  Doreen picked up the receiver.  “Can I speak to Max please,” the female voice was breathless. “May I say who is calling?” Doreen asked.  “Just tell him Wanda,” the woman answered.  Doreen handed her husband the phone.  “I’ll be in around six,” Max said after a moment.  He turned to Doreen, “That was the event coordinator.  “There is a welcome dinner this evening.” “Bye Darling, give me a call when you get to Vegas.”  Doreen gave her husband’s cheek an adoring kiss and squeezed his shoulder in a half hug.  Max gave a little shrug dislodging her arm then gave her hand a conciliatory pat.  “Break a leg, Sweetheart,” Doreen smiled.

The marriage was a happy one. Doreen made sure it was.  She had married a man whom she had loved from the moment she saw him, and he was a doctor.   “It was the only thing to do,” she grinned, “I’m a hypochondriac.” Max was a very good doctor.  He specialized in trauma medicine which fit Doreen’s plan because she was a mite clumsy. “I couldn’t afford the bills if I had to pay a doctor every time I got hurt,” she would laugh after Max patched up the cuts and bruises which were weekly occurrences.

Max wanted to live on a boat.  Doreen made the boat a cozy home.  He wanted to sail around the world; Doreen enthusiastically threw herself into preparations for the voyage.  She kept things shipshape and running like a fine Swiss watch.  Max was the Captain; she was navigator, cook, helmsman, radio operator and deckhand.   Their boat was the center of activity at the marina.  The aroma of fine food and gay laughter often floated from “North Star” on the ocean breeze.   Doreen entertained effortlessly.  Max was confident, when he called at four or five to tell her he had invited company for dinner that night, she would greet his guests with gourmet fare and a happy welcoming smile.

Because of his medical expertise, Max was often asked to speak in front of large groups.  Tall, well built and handsome, His features contorted when he spoke with friends about the speaking engagements.  He was terrified of speaking in front of large groups.  His solution for stage fright was tequila.  Not all the time, he assured his friends and partners, just when he was faced with large groups.

Max’s frequent speaking engagements took him to Las Vegas several times a year.  He liked Las Vegas so much that he returned often, even when he did not have speaking engagements.  Doreen was never invited to Las Vegas.  She had asked to be included but Max assured her she would be bored.  Gambling was not one of her interests anyway, she told friends.

“Oh, Honey,” Doreen switched off the recorder as Max reached the main dock on his way to the taxi, “be sure to let me know what time you will be getting back.   I’ll make reservations at George’s.”  “Ok,” Max answered, “I’m going to stay a couple extra days to unwind.”  “Sure, Honey, just let me know,” Doreen’s happy voice sailed to Max on the cool breeze, as her bright smile slipped into an uneasy frown.   Quickly, she ducked her head and switched on the tape recorder to the Italian lesson on which she was working and bent back to polishing the winches.   Doreen planned to have all the brass and wood polished before Max returned from his speaking engagement at the medical convention.  That would make him very happy.  Doreen smiled in anticipation and began to polish in earnest.

Italian was turning out to be fairly easy.  Doreen had studied Spanish last year and was fluent.  She was quite fluent in French though needed a brush up on grammar.  German would be slightly more difficult, but the languages would be very helpful on their five year round the world sail, scheduled for a year from now.   She had taken the HAM radio exam the week before.   Becoming a HAM had not proven difficult.  Doreen, besides being a beauty and a gifted dancer, possessed a photographic memory.    She had not a clue about how the radio worked, but she aced the HAM exam because she remembered every word.  Not what the words meant, mind you, but in general how they were strung together.  Morse code was a snap.  She could tap out an SOS at the drop of a winch handle.  Doreen expected her knowledge of celestial navigation, languages and her expertise as a HAM radio operator to make her irreplaceable on the cruise.

While Max was gone, Doreen fielded the many phone calls which kept the boat’s phone line busy.  She took careful messages and made sure Frank got every single one.   Only once had she allowed herself to puzzle, with her best friend, over the unique names of some of Max’s business acquaintances.   Honey and Bunny called often.  Doreen decided the women must have come from the South where those names were more common than in Southern California.  It was a topic upon which she did not linger.

On Tuesday, Max called to say he would be in at five the next evening.  Doreen, as was her habit, sprang into motion.  She had already prepared the boat for his homecoming.  The boat deck was scrubbed, the brass shined.  Every bit of wood had been lovingly oiled.  Below, the galley was spotless.  She quickly made dinner reservations at one of Max’s favorite restaurants and returned to the completion of her preparations.

Allotting time for shopping the next morning, Doreen made an appointment at the hair salon for early Wednesday afternoon.   By four-thirty Wednesday, she was almost ready.  She carefully placed two silver combs in her gleaming golden curls.  Her hair cascaded over suntanned shoulders and down her trim back.  Her makeup was flawless, a hint of blush, smoky eyes, lipstick which accented her full pouty lips.  For the occasion, she had purchased a strappy white sundress which kissed her perfect knees and hugged her slender waist.  Sexy, high heel sandals showed off her perfect, new pedicure.  A gauzy white scarf accented her slender neck.  Doreen felt she had selected just the right ensemble for a night on the town.

A spritz of Chanel, Doreen was ready.  Max would be there soon.  Feeling anticipatory butterflies in her stomach, she climbed the companionway into the cockpit.  Shielding her eyes against the sun, she dug into her haute couture handbag for Dior sunglasses.  Slipping the sunglasses onto her nose and slinging her bag onto her shoulder, Doreen straightened her back and smiled, she looked beautiful and elegant.  That was important.   Max would be pleased.

Doreen stepped off the boat onto the wooden pier a with a dancer’s grace.  Her timing was perfect.  In the parking lot she could see her husband’s blond head exiting the taxi which had brought him from the airport.  She smiled and sashayed down the long pier to meet her man.  He would be glad to see her, glad to be home.  Head high, shoulders back, hips swaying gracefully; she accepted the appreciative glances from her neighbors on adjoining docks.  With a fun loving, infectious smile and queenly wave she greeted all and accepted their compliments with lighthearted banter.  Hearing her voice, several boaters bounded up their companionways to shout hello.

As Doreen reached the end of the pier, her right heel caught in the planking.  She reached down to free the heel and felt the combs slip from her hair.  An ominous plop indicated one comb had gone for a swim.  Grabbing for the other, Doreen lost her balance and felt the crack of a breaking heel.  Lunching for her purse as it slipped from her shoulder, she tumbled to the deck.  The Dior sunglasses toppled off her nose and followed the errant comb into the oily bay.

Doreen picked herself up with a laugh, brushed at her torn, dirty dress, reconstructed her smile and continued up the pier.  From on land, Max looked down to see his wife, tangled hair obscuring her face, limping clumsily down the pier in a dirty, torn dress.  From one hand dangled a broken heel.  Her designer bag hung forlornly around her neck like an albatross.  As she neared, Doreen looked up the dock at Max who was walking towards her.  Her cheery smile was distorted by smeared pink lipstick making her face look like a Picasso print.  “Welcome home, Darling,” she trilled, “We have reservations at George’s.”

Max reached down to rescue the end of Doreen’s scarf, which was dragging off her shoulder and shredding on the splintery planks of the pier.  He leaned down to give her a peck on the cheek as he placed a steadying arm around her.  As they made their way back to their boat, Doreen smiled cheerfully and waved her broken heel in greeting as she limped past the neighboring boats. The neighbors waved back, affectionately.

“I’ll change and be ready to go in a sec,” Doreen said.  As she disappeared into the cabin, the phone began to ring.  She could hear Max’s gruff voice grow soft.  She was applying a last coat of mascara when he joined her in their cabin.  “Ya know, Sweetheart, I think we should put off dinner until tomorrow,” Max said.  “That was John Bowman.  He and Stewart are meeting for a drink at six to talk over the new business plan.  They want me to join them.”

 

Read More

THE ROYAL WAVE

Posted by on Jul 28, 2012 in sailing years, short story | 0 comments

ETAK

“A trimaran sailboat is rather like a monohull sailboat with training wheels,” Jan would say of her boat, Etak.  “The main hull holds most of the living space while two outrigger hulls provide stability and storage.”  “This boat is like a sailing tennis court, wide and stable,” quipped her husband, Eric.

All the sailboats, but one, in Turtle Bay that windy Thanksgiving were monohulls.   While the monohulls pitched and bucked at their anchors, Jan and Eric’s  trimaran stood steady on her anchor bridle, offering a stable platform.  Cruisers are always looking for comfort.  Thanksgiving dinner, it was decided by the ex pats in the anchorage, was to be on Jan and Eric’s boat.

Dingys began arriving at four.  Wine, appetizers, side dishes and desserts were passed up to the deck, The happy guests climbed aboard smiling holiday greetings.  Everyone settled comfortably into the cockpit under the snug protection of the bimini, talking and laughing with the ease and familiarity of old acquaintances.  Appetizers were passed, wine was poured and toasts offered. None of them were with family that holiday, but they were with friends.  Cruisers become good friends quickly.  Sailing provides for many shared memories, common interests and experiences.  There is a short hand of understanding among sailors and an unspoken law.   Cruisers are there for each other.  To not come to another’s aid is unthinkable.  Sometimes the crisis is life threatening, sometimes, much less critical.   Jan met the crew of one of the boats when, in desperation, she rowed to their boat and begged, “Please, talk to me.  My husband has been reading for four days.”  The crew understood exactly and, without question, invited Jan aboard.  Cruisers are like that.

The sky was darkening quickly that Thanksgiving evening and a light mist had begun to fall.  Wind whipped angrily around the boat and howled through the rigging.   Grey clouds settled in threatening mounds, rain filled caldrons above their heads.  At the mouth of the bay, wind whipped surf pounded the narrow opening.  Storm powered waves collided with the rush of the outgoing tide in fountains of angry spray.  Beyond the entrance to the bay, high surf rocketed to the heavens as waves collided with the rocky breakwater which provided shelter to the bay.  It was ugly out at sea.  The cruisers felt grateful for the safety of the anchorage.

Six o’clock, everyone had arrived but Doreen.  Doreen was alone this holiday.  Her husband had returned to the states to purchase another headsail.  Theirs had been lost overboard in a storm coming down the coast.  In the distance, the party saw Doreen stepping from her boat into her violently rocking dingy.  Doreen fitted her oars into the oarlocks and started to row towards Etak.  With the last guest on the way, Jan ducked below to finish last minute preparations.  Glancing out the aft cabin port, she was startled to see Doreen’s dingy pitching at an odd angle in the choppy bay.  Doreen was not rowing, but waving to the partiers aboard Etak, in queenly fashion, as her dingy sped past Etak on the outgoing tide.  Jan saw immediately that one of Doreen’s oar locks had broken.  Without benefit of oars, Doreen was being carried with the fast moving tide and wind towards the opening of the bay and out to sea.

Above, in the cockpit, the party continued.  No one had noticed anything amiss.   Jan hurled herself into the cockpit and leaped over her laughing guests.  There was not time to think or explain.  She grabbed for the dingy painter and pulled the dingy to the side of the boat.  Jan rapidly untied the painter, leaped into the dingy and pushed off as she threw her oars into their locks.  On deck, laughing momentarily stopped while everyone took in the situation.  Seeing that all was well in hand, the revelry resumed as Jan bent to the oars and franticly tried to catch Doreen before she hit the surf at the mouth of the bay.  Cruisers are like that, too.

The wind and current were with Jan. She covered the distance between herself and Doreen just as Doreen’s dingy caught a tall wave which sent it rocketing towards the rock breakwater.  Yelling over the wind for Doreen to toss her painter, Jan angled her dingy to minimize the pitch, caught the painter and tied it off.  Back turned to Etak, Jan picked a point on shore as reference and again bent into the oars. Pulling hard against the wind and tide Jan rowed towards home.  It was exhausting work.  For every stroke forward she lost at least a half a boat length back.  There was nothing to do but do it, as is so often the case on a sailboat.  If Jan did not manage to get herself and Doreen back to Etak, they would be caught in the raging, wet mêlée at the mouth of the bay.  If they even made it though the crashing waves they would be swept out to sea but chances were, both dingys would capsize and be dashed on the rocky shore. If the partiers aboard Etak noticed in time and they might be able to get to Jan and Doreen in time, but it was unlikely.  Eyes on her reference point, Jan put every ounce of strength against the wind, against the tide.  Sweating in the stinging spray, drenched from the waves slapping into the boat, Jan gave it her all.  Just do it, just do it, her mantra.

After twenty minutes, Jan wearily looked over her shoulder to make sure she was still on course to Etak.  She was making headway, almost there.  Aboard Etak,  Eric and the other boaters waved encouragingly..  Jan glanced back at Doreen, expecting to see her paddling with her    remaining oar.  Doreen was not paddling.  Doreen was sitting tall and elegant, back straight, gleaming curls blowing fetchingly in the breeze.  Remarkably she was dry and unmarked by the struggle.  A lovely smile was painted on Doreen’s beautiful, full lips.  Unfazed, she was waving regally, with a queen’s elegant turn of the wrist, to the happy crowd aboard Etak.  Doreen was thoroughly enjoying the ride.  Jen squinted down through soggy, wet hair at her drenched clothing and back at Doreen’s beatific smile.  Briefly, just briefly Jan contemplated angling a giant splash of water at Doreen’s elegantly attired figure….by mistake, of course.

Read More

FLYING ACE

Posted by on Jul 26, 2012 in personal, sailing years, short story | 0 comments

“Ya got another pair of shoes wid ya?” Ace directed the question over his shoulder, shouting over the noise of the engine.  “Yes, why?” Jan answered with an eye to the darkening sky surrounding the four seater, single engine plane.  “If we run outta light and havta put down, you’re gonna need different shoes to walk out.”  Jan looked down at her flimsy sandals and then out the window to the terrain below.  Put down?  There was not one square inch of level ground below them.  The steep coastline of Baja California was as ragged and torn as if cut with pinking shears and ravaged by an angry cat.  Putting down was an impossibility, walking out, well that was just crazy.  Jagged mountain peaks stretched from coast to coast across the narrow peninsula.  A single lane dirt road was the only road or path they had seen since leaving Brown Field and clearing immigration in Tijuana.  If they went down, they were dead.  Jen leaned her head against the paper thin fuselage and groaned.

In the co pilot’s seat Jen could see her brother-in-law’s smiling profile.  He shared his sunny, optimistic nature with his brother, Jen’s husband.  Jen had never seen either of them rattled or upset.  Mike wasn’t worrying about putting down.  A pilot himself, he was reveling in this last minute trip to Turtle Bay, Baja Mexico.  Jen looked again at the serrated landscape below and wondered if perhaps she’d been a little hasty in hiring someone named “Ace” to fly her to Mexico.

This particular adventure had started a month or two earlier.  Jen and her husband Eric  had  been hiking the tropical hillsides outside Puerta Vallarta.  Leaving their sailboat, Etak, anchored in Bandaras Bay they had taken a public bus as far as it would go and then started walking into the hills of Mexico.  “How do you suppose they got those trucks this far into the hills,” Jen had asked her husband.  Teetering precariously on the side of a steep heavily wooded hill were two trucks.  “I don’t know, there must be a road somewhere,” Eric had answered looking around  for any sign.  Parrots screeched from the trees and giant lizards lumbered through the thick foliage around them.  A narrow path had led them from the suberbs of Puerta Vallarta up steeply winding paths along a gentle stream into the hills.  Now and then they would see a small house or curious cow, but for most of the afternoon they had seen no one.

The two trucks were emblazened with large red letters saying Agua Emerald, a local water purification plant.  Two men were filling large water bottles in the stream.  “That’s funny,” Jen said.  “Isn’t that the plant where we bought  our water yesterday?”  “I think so,” said Eric.  “I wonder what they are doing up here.”  Eric and Jen finished their hike and headed back to Etak, picking up a few supplies at the grocery store as they walked through town.  The weather report was good.  Tomorrow they would set sail up the coast to Cabo San Lucas and from there up the coast of Baja to San Diego.

The next morning was bright and sunny.  Eric and Jen upped anchor and set out for Bird Island where they planned to anchor for the night.  By noon they were certain they were becoming ill.  Remebering the water trucks filling bottles at the stream, Jen and Eric suspiciously considered that the purified, bottled water they had purchased might just be stream water, and contaminated.  They  started boiling the water before using it, took the dysentery medication  they had onboard and hoped for the best.  Both were concerned. They had no way to reach medical facilities.  They were on there own.  While anchoring at Bird Island, the chain snarled on rocks.  There was no choice.  One of them  had to free it.   Eric  free dove 30 feet to untangle the chain.  When he had freed the chain he clambered, shakily back onto the deck.  Seeing his  pale face and feeling ill herself, Jen felt Eric’s  forehead and headed below for the thermometer.  Eric was running a temperature of 103 degrees   Jen was sure she was running a fever too.

The next days are a blur for Jen.  Later she remembered her husband carrying her from the bunk to the head, propping her against the bulkhead and spraying her with water to bring down her fever.  He was very sick himself, but a little better off than she was.  Eric was terribly worried.   He stayed awake for 72 hours, giving Jen small sips of water to keep her from dehydrating and going into a coma.  For the most part of several days, Jen was unconscious and later remembered almost nothing but Eric’s  constant presence whenever she gained consciousness.

After about a week, Jen and Eric had recuperated enough to continue their sail to Cabo San Lucas.  By the time they reached the anchorage in Cabo, Eric had decided it would be wise to fly Jen to her parent’s home in San Diego to recover fully.  Jen had lost quite a bit of weight and was very weak.  Jen reluctantly went only after Eric had called a friend and asked Sam to fly to Cabo and continue the trip with Eric up the coast to San Diego.  Confident that Eric would be safe with Sam as crew, Jen flew home to San Diego.

Several weeks later, well fed and pampered Jen was feeling content until the phone rang early one morning.  “Hi, Jen!”  “Hi Sam!  Sam, where are you?”  Sam was back in the United States.  It seemed he had never intended to stay more than a couple of weeks on the boat.  His son was graduating from the Naval Academy and he had to be there.  Understandable, but, Jen was distressed.  Sam  had deserted Eric.    Her guy  was alone, alone on the boat.  If he fell overboard, there would be no one there to save him.  Jen  was distraught.  She was frantic!

Jen  was not much of a sailor at this point.  In fact, Eric had been pretty much single handing the boat for months.  But in her anxious state of mind. that logic did not occur to her.  Eric was alone on the boat.  He was single handing.  She had to get there quickly to save him from danger.  There was no time to think, this called for action.  Jen phoned her brother-in-law.  Sensing possible adventure, Mike agreed, Jen should get herself to Turtle Bay as soon as possible.  He would go with her.  Jen’s next call was to Brown Field nestled on the border of Chula Vista, California and Tijuana, Mexico.  She was in luck!  An ex-Navy pilot named Ace was at the field and agreed to speak with her.  Ace told Jen to be at the air field by 2 pm.  They could just  make it to Turtle Bay before dark.  Jen called Mike.  He was just getting into the car.  He could be there in three hours.

Assuring her alarmed parents she knew what she was doing, Jen began throwing her gear into a duffle bag.  Jen’s parents had reason to be alarmed.  Jen knew nothing of Ace, Jen’s Dad, a pilot who knew many of the pilots who flew in and out of Brown Field, knew nothing of Ace.   Her parents were sure Jen was embarking on a disastrous trip but were respectfully quiet.  They were stoic people and by this time shell shocked.  Jen’s parents had cautiously tried to talk sense into her the year before when she announced she was getting married, building a boat and going sailing.  Jen’s  Mom asked, “What is this boy’s name again?”

Mike and Jen made it to Brown Field in record time.   Ace was a balding, plump, florid faced individual with a bulbous alcoholic’s nose.  He seemed sober at the moment and Jen was in no mood for setbacks.   Ace had his flimsy craft ready to go.  Jen and Mike threw their  gear into the plane and Ace started up the plane.  Precious time was lost because Mexican aviation law required us to land again and clear customs in Tijuana.  The flight to the TJ airport took all of twenty minutes, mostly taking off, landing and taxiing.  By the time they had cleared customs it was clear that Ace was an imprecise, though practiced pilot.  Jen was congratulating herself on her foresight in including Mike on the trip.

Just at dark Ace dropped the tiny plane onto a bumpy, poorly maintained dirt field at Turtle Bay.  The plane bounced and skidded awkwardly on the dirt airstrip before coming to a shuddering stop.  Ace lumbered out and spoke to one of the kids standing on the airstrip.  Soon, a rattletrap station wagon thundered onto the field in a cloud of thick, red dust.  By the fading light Mike and Jen could see a smiling man at the steering wheel.  Almost before the vehicle had careened to a halt, the driver bounded out.  He and Ace exchanged loud greetings and many back slapping embraces before the driver motioned them to climb into his car.  With a screech of the wheels, Alfonso, the Fishing Inspector of Turtle Bay, conveyed Jen and Mike to the rickety pier where Eric, alerted to their arrival, was tying off the dingy.  Out on the bay, Jen could see their boat hanging peacefully on its anchor.  She was home.

Eric, grinning broadly was climbing the long ladder to the pier as Mike and Jen walked rapidly down the quay.  Jen  learned to respect that pier.  At low tide the pier hung at least 15 feet above the water.  One had to  climb  up and down a vertical ladder, with many missing steps, to get to and from a small dingy.  Negotiating the pier at night was tricky.  There were many holes and a misstep could send one sprawling or worse yet, flying into the dark bay.

Turtle Bay is a dusty town about half way down the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula.  The tiny town was there almost exclusively because of the fish packing plant located on the edge of the bay.  The generous bay is large enough for the Mexican Navy ships and is well protected and picturesque.   At this time, the town was connected to the rest of Baja only by a rutted, partially passable dirt road and a weekly cargo plane out of Tijuana airport.    Small single story homes and shops were painted in traditional blues, pinks and yellows which we saw in many small fishing villages along the coasts.  The people of the town greeted Alfonso with respect and fondness. The Fishing Inspector is an important man in a fishing village.

Eric was glad to see Jen and Mike  although it turns out had not been suffering from neglect in Jen’s absence.  Every boat in the anchorage had taken pity on the poor guy whose sick wife had left him to return to the states. He had been invited for dinner, bridge, cocktails, fishing, swimming, canasta and hikes. He had been well fed and well entertained.  Jen suspect he would have had little trouble finding crew if he had needed it.  He did not need it.  Eric was a seasoned sailor having competed in several Transpacs, or trans pacific, sailboat races to Tahiti and Hawaii.  He had spent many months sailing around the South Pacific and was capable in any situation.  Still, he was happy to have his wife and crew  back on the boat.

Alfonso and Ace were still slapping backs and laughing.  They were obviously old friends.  The Fishing Inspector let Ace know he and Mike too, if he wished, was welcome to spend the night at his house.  Mike accepted eagerly, sensing  another adventure.  Alfonso cordially extended a dinner invitation to all.  After dropping the duffle on the boat they went to Alfonso’s house for dinner.

As fishing inspector, Alfonso had abundant access to fish, lobster, abalone and crab.  All that and more was served that night in a sumptuous dinner, skillfully and flavorfully prepared by Alfonso’s mistress.  Alfonso had a wife and several children in Ensenada, he informed them, but because of the children’s schooling they could not spend much time in Turtle Bay.  So, of course, he had a mistress.  By this time everyone had all had a celebratory glass of wine or two and this made perfect sense.  Cathy was a slim, dimpled young professional woman who taught at the local school.  She had a keen sense of humor, a sharp eye and evidence of quick temper.  Jen and Eric got to know her and Alfonso better over several more visits to Turtle Bay over the next few years.

The dinner was a riotous, laugh filled party of stories and jokes.   Alfonso had quite a cellar and believed good food deserved the accompaniment of lots of good tequila and wine.  Ace, good natured and  appreciative of this belief, drank many glasses of both.  Shortly after 11 pm, as they were finishing an excellent port and pastry, Jen was amused to notice Ace had slipped from his chair and was snoring happily under the table.  Alfonso grinned, slapped the table and barked, ”That is where he sleeps!”  Apparently this was the tradition.   Ace drank himself under the table and then spent the night there.  That too, made perfect sense, they continued the party until well after 1 am when Alfonso finally agreed Eric and Jen could return to the boat.  Mike accepted the offer of Alfonso and Cathy’s guest room and hot shower.  He’d spent the night on the boat before.

The next morning, Mike took the controls as a blurry eyed Ace slumped sleepily in the copilot’s seat.  Eric and Jen waved from the airstrip as the small plane winged into the blue sky above Turtle Bay and turned its nose towards San Diego.  When she got home to the boat after seeing the plane on its way, Jen pulled out the ship’s log and found an ink pen,  just another entry in a cruiser’s diary.

 

 

 

Read More

GET OUT THE VOTE

Posted by on Jul 4, 2012 in my day, personal, political, short story | 0 comments

I volunteered.  Now, how can I get out of this?  I am desperate!!   In the spirit of community service, I agreed to “make a few calls” for “get out the vote.”  Good idea.  I’m new in the area and this is a way to get to know other people.  Encouraging people to vote is a good thing and I figured I should put my mouth where my mouth is. Instead of just talking, I would do something constructive about the current political situation.

I should have run when, at the first meeting, I was introduced as a Precinct Leader.  Precinct Leader?  I did not volunteer to lead.  I said I’d make a few calls.  Before I had time to adjust to this catastrophic news and raised my hand to protest, the moment had passed and a new topic was introduced.  I settled back into my chair.  Maybe I heard wrong.

In Wyoming, making a few calls meant, making a few calls.  Armed with a pencil and a list of names and numbers, one picked up the phone, dialed, talked, made a check on the paper and moved on to the next name.  Not in California.  Making a few calls is the least of it.

In California, you do not need a pencil; you need a computer and apparently, an advanced degree in computer science.  It seems, I’m not sure because so far I have understood absolutely nothing at the two classes I have attended, that making a “few calls” means  first, attendance in a PhD curriculum and then, a full time job…with no benefits.

So far I have been directed to two, yes two, web sites.  One, it seems is a teaching site.  I listened to the video and understand some of the nomenclature.  “Password” and “Hit the enter key” were terms I recognized right off.  Success.  Then, I listened to the rest.  Not a clue!

The second web site was introduced at a meeting attended by two technical assistants.  Two technical assistants?  Why, what for?   Oh, what have I DONE?  I almost made an excuse about a sick kid until my panic abated enough for me to remember the “kids” are 27 and 30.  The excuse would probably not fly in present company.  Drat!  Maybe I could get one of the kids to fake a pregnancy and “need” help?

So, it seems to successfully “make a few calls” in California, I will need to know how to enter the web site, user name and password (this means I have to remember the site, user name and password, or at least where I wrote them down!), read a script (what if I don’t like the script?), be capable of answering numerous questions, navigate through a multitude of web pages and THEN enter data.  I thought I was just going to have to overcome the fear of calling hostile, strangers!  I have a headache.  I think I might be catching the intentional flu!

My computer and I have a touchy relationship as it is.  My computer crashes when I try to multi-task by emailing and listening to Pandora!  We cannot do this, computer and I!  This is going to break us up, I know it!!  What have I done?  Why did I move to California?   Why did I say yes?  This is the end!!  I will fail; I will fail and disappoint all these new friends who are counting on my help.  I will fail and my computer will divorce me on grounds of irreconcilable differences.  He will take everything! He’ll win.  I know it!!  I’ve heard about these California courts!

Read More

ON BEING NEEDY

Posted by on Jun 23, 2012 in family, husband, kids, my day, personal, pets, short story | 1 comment

Author’s note:  I was reading the following passage to my husband.  I’d written this a few years ago and was presenting this as prideful evidence that in the last few years, I’d improved dramatically.  “I am so much more well adjusted,” I bragged.  Husband number one cocked an eyebrow, “Um hum,” he said,  choking back a laugh and ending in a fit of coughing.  As I said, husband number one….

 

I think I may qualify as “needy.”  That is a psychological term I’ve been aware of for several years now.  We’re not talking “needy” as in, without assets, but “needy,” as in need of validation, reassurance and self esteem.  I’d never thought of myself as particularly “needy,” until last week.  Now, I am considering therapy.

It had been a particularly trying day.  I had made five trips, 17 miles each way, into town, twice completely, as it turned out, unnecessary.  My efforts to please, to be a good Mom, good daughter, good wife, good dog….whatever (still looking for the right word, “owner” doesn’t work), had been met by complete indifference.  It was one of those days when every time I turned around, someone needed something.  Right now!  Even the boys (ok, the dogs) were unhappy because we hadn’t walked.  I’d not met a single expectation.  No one cared about how hard I had tried.  No one!!!

Mom was in the hospital.  I had met with the doctors and talked to the nurses.  I had been to see Dad, fixed his lunch and done my best to soothe his anxiety about Mom.  Headed back into town from Dad’s house, I encountered my vagabond dog jogging up the road, where he had no business.  He was, evidently, fed up with waiting for his walk and going it on his own.  I returned him home, chastised him and left him, surly and truculent on the porch.  After all, he pointed out; it was my fault he had gone AWOL.  If I had met my responsibility, he would not have been walking on his own.  He was correct.  Obviously, I was unreasonable too.

I’d been to the grocery store, pharmacist, dry cleaners.  I’d bought food, prepared food; I’d picked up everything on everyone’s list.  I’d moved ungrateful children from point A to point B, and then back again; without a thank you.  The day was almost over.  I had not had a walk, the sure sign of a failed day.  Daughter #1 was angry because I protested at her request to be driven home after school and returned to town an hour later (five trips already, twenty  minutes each way, times five, equals… plus one more equals….)   This, to save her boy friend the inconvenience of driving ALL the way to our house to pick her up, and ALL the way back.  You must understand when I drive ALL the way back and forth it is not an inconvenience, it is a privilege.  Anyway, I’d knocked myself out getting everyone’s errands done, missed my walk, failed as a parent and as a daughter and I was running out of gas.  I hate getting gas.

I pulled into the gas station. I filled the car and entered the building to pay.  The cashier was a tall, burley kid with tattoos, a pony tail and several piercings.  Making change, he laconically asked, “How’s yur day?”  My eyes welled up with tears.  Oh my GOD!  Someone cared!!  I told him.  In a torrent of words, I poured out my fatigue, my disappointment, my concern about my mother.  In the warmth of that dear man’s tender concern, I almost cried in relief.  Here was a caring human being, someone who asked about me, about MY life, my day, someone who cared about ME.  I thanked him for his tender concern, his compassion, his warmth.   “Thank you for asking, thank you for caring,” I sniffed gratefully.  About that point, he interrupted to say, “Wow, Lady!  Most people just say, “fine.”

Shoot, now I have to find a new place to buy gas.  I can never, NEVER go back to that station!

 

Read More

IT WAS UNDERSTOOD

Posted by on Jun 17, 2012 in family, kids, my day, personal, short story | 0 comments

“Dad, you’ve never said you loved me.”  My father’s steely blue/grey eyes met mine.  Several seconds passed, “I thought it was understood,” my Dad said dismissively.  At forty some years old, I had finally mustered the courage to broach this subject.  The conversation was over.

Five feet, eleven inches tall, rapier straight, Dad’s stature was in the balance of his hard, blue gaze.  Dad was a combat pilot in WWII and Korea.  By the time the Vietnam War occurred, he was too senior to fly but held one of the top administrative billets in the Pacific.  His men adored him for his fairness, but feared his unrelenting demand for excellence.  He demanded from them and from his children what he demanded of himself, perfection.

Dad studied engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  My mother told me that Dad never took an exam.  The professors always suggested he take exam week off and go skiing.  Because Dad had never turned in a wrong answer, the professors knew he would get every answer correct.

Dad expected intelligence, dedication and perseverance from his children.  He must have been dismayed when his son and daughter did not show the proficiency he did for math and science.  When I was in grade school, my Mom begged me each night to let her help me with my homework before my Dad came home.  I never agreed.  Tonight, I would be better, tonight I would be smart, tonight he would not have reason to call me an idiot and walk away in disgust.  I never was better.  I never was smart enough.

Dad believed honor and honesty were a man’s (and his daughter’s) most valuable asset.  Reputation was all.  A social, moral or ethical lapse would be punishable by weeks of silence.  He never told us why he was angry.  I am sure he felt it was understood.  To this day, silence from someone I love sends me in to paradoxes of self doubt and grief.  The fear of not being good enough, not meeting expectations has followed me from childhood.  Somehow, the determination to keep tying has followed me too.

Dad could fix or build anything.  He did so with the same excellence and precision he did everything else in his life.  He loved kittens and cats.  Old ladies loved him.  Unfailingly courteous, perfectly correct, he maneuvered each social occasion with grace and charm.   He was comfortably at ease with Japanese business men at a dinner where geishas elegantly served and entertained, as he was in a Senator’s office. Dad was devastatingly handsome with a Clark Gable twinkle in his eyes and an amazing smile.  Women stared and became tongue tied in his presence.  To my amusement, embarrassment and dismay, my girl friends in college often commented on how gorgeous Dad was and raved about his perfect bearing.  I never saw my Dad acknowledge these gestures of admiration.  To do so, would have been unseemly and impolite to his family.

When I was ten, a girl in my fourth grade class was unbearably cruel to me.  Every night, my Dad would rub my back and tell me stories until I cried myself to sleep.  He listened to my woeful tales, but never offered words of advice.  Instead, Dad offered a story to indicate the important  behavior was mine, not my tormentors.

Dad died some ten years after I had observed he never said he loved me.  The last ten years of his life were hard ones beset with the hardships that go with advanced Parkinson’s disease.  He and my Mom agreed to move from San Diego to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where my husband and I lived.  Dad took gentle delight in his grand children’s growing achievements and never, to my knowledge, showed the disappointment in them he evidenced in me.  As his illness advanced and his reliance on me grew, he gracefully entrusted his finances and his medical security into my hands.  He did so with complete trust.   Dad never did say he loved me, it was understood.

Read More